Tesla says its ex-employee caused $167 million drop in its market cap

RENO, NEV - MARCH 25: Security gate outside the Tesla Motors Gigafactory construction site east of Reno, Nev., March 25, 2015. (Photo by David Calvert/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) says a former employee who allegedly hacked its confidential manufacturing operating system and leaked trade secrets to media caused a $167 million drop in Tesla’s market capitalization during a two-day period June 2018.

The alleged stock dip is claimed by Tesla’s expert CPA and damages analyst in an exhibit filed by Tesla this week in a pending federal lawsuit in Nevada against the former Gigafactory technician, Martin Tripp.

Tesla sued Tripp last year, claiming he stole trade secrets from Tesla and handed over several gigabytes of data to outside parties.

Then, Tesla alleges, Tripp lied to the media about problems at Tesla, including an assertion that punctured battery cells had been installed in certain Model 3 vehicles — a claim Tesla denies. Tesla also claims that Tripp exaggerated levels of scrap material used in the vehicle manufacturing processes.

RENO, NEV - MARCH 25: Construction on the Tesla Motors Gigafactory east of Reno, Nev., March 25, 2015. (Photo by David Calvert/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The filing by Tesla alleging the stock dip references two articles by Business Inisider’s Linette Lopez — one from June 4 calling Tesla’s production a “nightmare” and one from June 6 claiming its Gigafactory robots weren’t working yet.

Source: Tesla court filing

“In the brief period of trading that took place between the publication of each of the June 4 Article and June 6 Article and the close of the NASDAQ trading day, Tesla’s market capitalization declined by $34 million and $134 million, respectively, or $167 million in total over those two short time windows,” the filing states.

“These are phantom damages in our view,” Robert Mitchell, Tripp’s lawyer, told Yahoo Finance. “We have filed a Daubert motion to exclude the so-called expert opinion. We’d be very surprised if they are ever admitted at trial, and even if they are, no jury would find them credible.”

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Tweets published to Tripp’s Twitter account allegedly showing images of punctured Tesla batteries have been removed.

Tesla has characterized Tripp as an underperforming former employee who became disgruntled after he was fired from the company.

For his part, Tripp denies Tesla’s allegations and instead holds himself out as a whistleblower. In July 2018, he filed an official tip with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which reiterated allegations he’d made to the media including a claim that Tesla lied to investors about its vehicle production numbers. Tripp has also filed a countersuit against Tesla.

Alexis Keenan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.

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